If your espresso machine doesn’t have a frothing attachment, you can easily heat and whip milk for cappuccinos and lattes with an electric frother. In addition, these small devices can warm milk for a bedtime treat, or froth cold milk to cap an iced brew or chocolate milk.
To find the best companion to make your perfect cup of coffee, we chose some of the most popular electric frothers on the market and bought a whole lot of dairy, soy, and nut milk. It’s a good thing I like my coffee with milk because I downed way too many cappuccinos in search of our best right now.
To be clear, none of the machines we tested were perfect. Each had its own pros and cons, which made it hard to pick an overall winner. But our favorite, the Nespresso Aeroccino 3(available at Amazon for $72.99) was tops at frothing whether we used skim, whole, hot or cold milk.
These are the best milk frothers we tested:
Nespresso Aeroccino 3
Capresso Froth Plus Automatic Milk Frother
Capresso froth PRO
Capresso Froth Control Automatic Milk Frother
Nespresso Aeroccino 4
Breville Milk Cafe Frother and Hot Chocolate Maker
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While it has fewer bells and whistles than any of the others we tested, the compact Nespresso Aeroccino 3 was also the easiest to use, quickest at frothing, and totally reliable for whipping up clouds of frothy milk. Whether you want hot or cold milk froth, the device excels using both whole and skim milk.
It has neither a handle nor a spout, but the ridges make it easy to grasp, and we never spilled any milk —although latte art may be difficult.
Inside the lid, you’ll find a stirring attachment that you can use to heat but not froth a larger quantity of milk. The Aeroccino 3 can’t go in the dishwasher but cleans up easily as milk doesn’t “bake” onto the bottom during the heating process like it did with every other frother we tested.
You can only use this model with milk—so no mulled cider—and it only whips up to four ounces. But if you’re buying a frother exclusively to make one or two cappuccinos or lattes, this is our top choice.
A trifecta of moderate price, excellent frothing, and versatility catapulted the Froth Plus high in our ratings.
While not quite as stylish or as small as others, it created foamy clouds with whole and skim milks on both hot and warm settings—but not on cold. Additionally, we didn’t always measure a big difference in temperature between hot and warm.
You can froth up to 8 ounces of milk at once which comes in handy if you’re making cappuccinos for a dinner party. Keep in mind that more milk takes more time (sometimes almost 5 minutes in our tests) so you’ll want to start the Capresso whirring before you pull the espressos.
As the pitcher is clear plastic and has large-easy-to-read max and min lines, it’s particularly easy to fill so there’s little risk you’ll add too much liquid and wind up with an overflow. If you merely want to warm up cider or cocoa without whipping it and increasing its volume, the pitcher can accommodate 12 ounces—enough for a large mug. Stashed on the bottom of the machine you’ll find an attachment that heats milk without foaming it, plus an extra frothing disc.
While we did find some milk stuck to the bottom after frothing, you can pop the pitcher in the dishwasher and avoid scrubbing.
Hi, I'm Sharon Franke, and I’ve been testing kitchen equipment for the past 30 years and drinking coffee even longer.
In view of my love for the bean, I’ve made it a point to develop a particular expertise in everything coffee from brewers to yes, frothers. I have an awful lot of experience with the technology of appliances and know what a great cup of cappuccino tastes like.
I tested seven of the most popular electric milk frothers, evaluating each on its versatility, how easy it was to use, and how quickly and well it frothed both hot and cold whole and nonfat milk. We also tried a few frothers with soy and almond milks.
If you’re a bit hesitant to purchase a frother just to treat yourself to cappuccinos, being able to use it for other purposes like whipping up an indulgent mug of hot chocolate or a hot toddy may justify the splurge. That’s why we gave extra credit to ones that can be used with other beverages besides milk.
We considered the clarity and thoroughness of the manual and how easy it was to use the controls and clean the appliance.
When it came to frothing, we measured how long it took to whip whole and nonfat milk on each setting and the temperature and volume of the foamed milk. We looked for milk that was whipped to at least half its volume and stood in peaks. On hot settings, we looked for temps that were not too low to cool off your coffee nor too high to scald the milk and ruin its flavor.
We found a few constants: All of the best milk frothers left some unthickened milk in the pitcher to pour into latte or cappuccino before adding the frothy topping.
Using whole milk yielded soft clouds that we could mound on top of an espresso yet stir in smoothly. With skim milk, we got a larger volume and a stiffer foam. And soy and almond milks thickened into the consistency of very softly whipped cream rather than a foam.
How About Handheld Milk Frothers?
Handheld battery-operated frothers have the advantage of being inexpensive and easy to stash in a drawer. Many, but not all, work quite well at producing a large volume of frothed milk with very little left unfrothed.
In fact, when we tested the handheld milk frother from Aerolatte, it produced the largest volume of any frother we tested and left virtually nothing unfrothed. It even did a reasonably good job with soy and almond milk.
So why would you prefer one of the automated frothers instead? For one, using a manual frother means you have to heat your own milk, being careful to just warm it without scalding it. To get beyond the softly whipped cream stage takes up to 2 minutes, and you must hold the device the entire time. Many require that you keep your finger pressed on the switch while you’re frothing, making them particularly tedious to operate.
You can also purchase frothers that look like little French presses. They work by pumping a frothing device up and down. In general, they’re less effective than the ones with batteries.
Other Milk Frothers We Tested
Capresso froth PRO
This model is virtually the same as the Froth Plus except for the fact that the pitcher is metal with a nonstick finish. While this makes it harder to see the fill marks from the exterior, they are large and easy to read.
If you want to froth a large volume without paying top dollar, consider this model which can whip as much as 10 ounces at once. It has four settings: hot froth, hot flat, hot chocolate, and cold froth.
Using hot froth we got loads of fluffy milk. However, we didn’t find much value to “flat hot” and got little frothing with cold milk. What is unique about this frother is that you can add chocolate chips or chunks on the hot chocolate setting; about halfway through the machine flashes to signal it’s time to add them—or syrup or cocoa mix, if you prefer.
As on the other Capressos, you’ll find stirring and extra frothing attachments in the bottom of the machine and that milk sticks to the bottom so you’ll want to avoid hand scrubbing and take advantage of the fact that it’s dishwasher-safe.
This elegant stainless-steel upgrade of the Aeroccino 3 is just as compact but addresses some of the concerns we had with the 3. It sports a handle and spout, and it can be safely cleaned in the dishwasher.
It can only froth milk, but it has four settings from cold to hot milk to cappuccino to latte macchiato. And, as there’s one attachment for all settings, you don’t have to worry about changing up the disks or losing the extra one.
Unfortunately, in our tests, it only frothed well on the latte macchiato setting—a major downgrade. More settings meant more confusion, particularly as they are only identified by little icons of coffee cups whose meanings may not be apparent to you without a glance at the manual.
Breville Milk Cafe Frother and Hot Chocolate Maker
This is the Rolls Royce of milk frothers. All gleaming stainless steel and about the size of a small food processor, the Breville signals luxury right out of the box. With it you get a very comprehensive manual complete with recipes. It features an illuminated dial that lets you select a temperature from just warm to very hot—although it does indicate on the dial the ideal temp range for frothing.
As you would expect from this class of machine, you get top-notch results—billows of foamed milk. Unfortunately, in our tests the temperatures we recorded were about 10 degrees lower than the ones featured on the control. There’s also a cold stir setting that stirs or froths without heating.
On its max setting, the Breville can froth 2 cups of milk, more than any other we tested. Its minimum setting is 1/4 cup, which is the most some compact frothers can handle. It also comes with an attachment that stirs but doesn’t froth about three cups of milk. Keep in mind that more milk means more time to froth—sometimes over 6 minutes.
Other luxe features include a stainless-steel pitcher that’s both dishwasher safe and easy to hand wash. In the lid there’s a measuring cup to use for adding mix-ins. You can add powder, chocolate syrup, or even grated chocolate to make cocoa and its large capacity means you can make enough for two or three mugs at once.
The stirring attachment sits on the side of the machine when not being used, and the cord is particularly easy to pull out of the wall socket.
As you’ll be spending more than for any other frother and dedicating a chunk of your precious kitchen counter space, we urge you to make sure you really need such a serious machine.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.